For the second time this early part of the season, the NLEX Road Warriors squandered a 19-point lead.
The Road Warriors lost a big lead against Governors’ Cup champion Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings a few weeks ago and paid dearly, dropping an 83-75 loss in the process.
Against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters on Thursday night, the Road Warriors wasted another 19-point lead and flirted with disaster before rising star Calvin Oftana took over down the stretch, scoring 11 points bridging the fourth quarter and the overtime, including the equalizing triple with two seconds left in regulation.
With the sophomore forward Oftana taking charge, the Road Warriors hung on and survived the test before completing a 114-108 victory.
But while losing big leads may be a concern for the Road Warriors, general manager and head coach Yeng Guiao sees it as one way to toughen his team up.
“Akala namin talo na, pero hindi nag-give up ’yung mga bata,” said Guiao.
“Of course, disappointed ka, 19-point lead, tapos nag-overtime pa, tapos hirap na hirap ka, you needed all the breaks you can get. Pero, on the other hand, mabuti rin ’yun. Kasi, you need to learn how to win games in different ways. Kailangan alam mo ipanalo yung tinambakan mo, kailangan alam mong ipanalo yung tinambakan mo pero hinabol ka, alam mo ipanalo yung dikit kayo all the way. Iba-ibang klaseng laro, kailangan mo ipanalo.”
The Road Warriors raced to a 21-2 lead and appeared ready to put away Phoenix Super LPG, but like a bad smell that doesn’t go away, the Fuel Masters kept coming.
In fact, the Fuel Masters appeared to have the game in control, leading 100-92, at one stretch.
They were leading, 102-97, with 18 seconds left after Matthew Wright scored on a tough lean-in jumper, but Oftana took over in the next two offensive trips.
Oftana hit a triple with 14 seconds left to shove the Road Warriors within striking distance, 102-100. After Larry Muyang split his charities, it gave the former NCAA MVP an opportunity to equalize in the next play.
The ex-San Beda stalwart knocked down the game-tying basket in the next play, then essayed the role as his team’s closer by scoring his team’s first field goal in overtime before Don Trollano, Kevin Alas and JR Quiñahan joined in the fray and conspired to give the Road Warriors a hard-earned victory.